Space for the Bass explores the versatility and potential of the most grounded instrument in jazz-the acoustic bass-in the open musical environments of duo, trio and quartet performances. This program features old and new friends, who are among the top players on the jazz scene today. Hans Dekker is a thoughtful drummer, a musician's drummer, with an approach full of musical surprises and delights. Martin Sasse also ranks as an up-and-coming talent on the European jazz scene-a pianist comfortable in the mainstream and beyond. Space for the Bass offers a wealth of talent on the alto saxophone-the amazing Francesco Cafiso, nineteen years old when he recorded this project-and Karolina Strassmayer, a gutsy and passionate player, who often places in the top five of Downbeat critics' polls.
"Clockwise" is described by the composer, Cedar Walton, as "egghead" music, which merely means that the harmony is sophisticated and demanding. Francesco sings through the exquisitely crafted melody with a flow that belies the complicated underlying chord sequence. "Blue Dahlia," recalls the works of Ellington and Mingus by using a simple diatonic theme, harmonized with typical Mingus-type chords. Flat-nines and sharp-fives abound. Karolina's sound is mesmerizing and she captures the mood of the song from the first note to her last cadenza.
I first heard Charlie Rouse perform "Pumpkin's Delight" with the group Sphere in the '80s. The 24-bar minor blues has a deep bass-line hook, juxtaposed with the half-time melody of Karolina's alto. The simultaneous feeling of fast and slow tempos gives this tune its charm. Originally recorded on the 1962 Impulse! album, Duke Ellington & John Coltrane, "Angelica" is one of Duke's happy melodic romps. In our version no individual soloist steps too far into the foreground. I duet with Martin, Martin with Karo, and Karo with Hans . . . it's a collective thing.
During the fifteen years that I lived in New York, there were a myriad of piano-bass gigs, and all the duos seemed to play "Alone Together." The piece lends itself to quiet interplay-a classic which Martin and I offer in a compact, focused style.
Francesco joins us for the Charlie Parker standard "Moose the Mooche," adding his technically advanced take on Bird's concept. "Forgotten But Not" refers to the distant memories that pop up now and then-sometimes bothersome, sometimes funny, always presenting themselves as clear visions of a time long past.
Many things can happen in eighteen years-a child can grow up, a life can change and develop, and a marriage can take root, grow, blossom and bear fruit. "Eighteen Years" reflects this long period of development, and it's a long piece-over nine minutes. But, as Red Mitchell often told me, "Ballads need to be longer, because they are slower." Eighteen years is how long I have been married to my lovely wife, Robin.
"You Stepped Out of a Dream" belongs to my favorite standards songbook. I first learned and played the tune with Jimmy Raney, the legendary guitarist, who lived in Louisville in the '70s. Hans and I step through the form, sometimes playing the melody, but more often just playing what feels right.
"Redpost" is fast, and I even wrote it quickly. It flowed out as I was sitting at the piano thinking about an up-tempo closer for this collection of music. "Redpost," which pays tribute to the Marvin Redpost character in the kids' books by Louis Sachar, allows the quartet to stretch and blow.
Thanks for listening . . . I hope you enjoy Space for the Bass!
John Goldsby, Cologne, Germany June 2009